Last edited 24 Jun 2015

Scottish Land Reform Bill

The Land Reform Review Group was established in July 2012 to undertake a review of land rights and ownership in Scotland. The then First Minister Alex Salmond said, "I want this review to deliver radical change for both rural and urban areas, developing new ideas which will improve current legislation as well as generating even more innovative proposals.” The Group started its inquiry in September 2012.

On 23 May 2014, the Group published its final report, The Land of Scotland and the Common Good which set out a number of commitments:

  • To improve the transparency of land.
  • To improve existing community rights to buy.
  • To have 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020.
  • To extend the Scottish Land Fund.
  • To bring forward a Land Reform Bill.

On the 26 November 2014, as part of the Programme for Government, the First Minister set out the Scottish Government's vision for land reform, proposing that land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few. This was followed by a consultation which ran from 2 Dec 2014 to 10 Feb 2015 on a range of potential provisions for a Land Reform Bill intended to:

  • Demonstrate a long-term commitment to land reform by setting up a Scottish Land Reform Commission.
  • Improve the transparency and accountability of land ownership by making public sector information on land, its value and ownership readily available and limiting the legal entities that can take ownership of land in Scotland.
  • Address barriers to sustainable development and diversify land ownership.
  • Manage land and rights in land for the common good.
  • Address specific aspects of land ownership and rights.

Following the consultation, the Scottish Land Reform Bill was introduced on 22 June 2015 to:

  • Make provision for a land rights and responsibilities statement.
  • Establish the Scottish Land Commission.
  • Make provision about access to, and provision of, information about owners and controllers of land.
  • Make provision about engaging communities in decisions relating to land.
  • Enable certain persons to buy land to further sustainable development.
  • Make provision for non-domestic rates to be levied on shootings and deer forests.
  • Make provision about the change of use of common good land.
  • Make provision about the management of deer on land.
  • Make provision about access rights to land.
  • Amend the law on agricultural holdings to provide for a new form of agricultural tenancy.
  • Remove the requirement to register before tenants of certain holdings can exercise a right to buy.
  • Provide a new power of sale where a landlord is in breach of certain obligations.
  • Provide about rent reviews.
  • Expand the list of the persons to whom holdings can be assigned or bequeathed and to whom holdings can be transferred on intestacy and to make provision about landlords’ objections to such successor tenants.
  • To provide for a 2 year amnesty period in relation to certain improvements carried out by tenants, and to provide for notice of certain improvements proposed by landlords; and for connected purposes.

The bill has been described as ‘radical’ and a ‘land grab’ by some landowners, in particular in relation to the power that could be given to government to force owners to sell land and the imposition of business taxes on shooting estates. Others see it as a much needed move toward reforming a feudal and archaic system of land ownership.